Is it arthritis, old age or something else?
Arthritis can come on so gradually that it’s tough to detect right away. But hip arthritis doesn’t just cause pain and stiffness. It can slow down your pup, limit its range of motion and reduce its overall mobility.
Because your dog can’t tell you that it’s in pain, it’s up to you to know the signs of canine hip dysplasia. Recognizing signs of arthritis in dogs early on can help you provide treatment that can keep Fido comfortable.
What Is Arthritis, and How Does it Affect Dogs?
Two distinct diseases can present themselves as arthritis in dogs. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that destroys the cartilage in the joints over time. As dogs with osteoarthritis age, they lose the cartilage that produces a soft, mobile surface between two joints.
The loss of cartilage causes friction. As the bones that make up a joint rub together, they can cause pain, stiffness and swelling. This type of wear and tear is mechanical. It’s simply something that happens as dogs and their joints get older.
Inflammatory joint disease occurs when a virus or bacteria causes inflammation in the body. The inflammation can attack the joints, producing arthritis symptoms.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is an inflammatory disease that’s produced by a tick bite. It’s an acute, serious disease that damages the tissues in the body. If it’s not treated right away, it can cause lasting arthritis symptoms.
Immune-mediated polyarthritis in dogs is a type of inflammatory joint disease. However, it’s not caused by an external microbe. Instead, it occurs when the immune system attacks itself.
Normally, the immune system fights off infections and harmful invaders. Sometimes, it recognises the body’s own tissues as dangerous even if they’re not. If the immune system is overactive, it can attack the tissues that surround the joints.
Polyarthritis often occurs with other diseases. Dogs that are suffering from gastrointestinal problems, infections or cancer may develop immune-mediated polyarthritis because their system is already on high alert. This type of arthritis is similar to rheumatoid arthritis in humans.
Dogs are more likely to get this type of arthritis in back or the limbs. Osteoarthritis is common in the hips.
Osteoarthritis in the Hips
While osteoarthritis is caused by general overuse, certain factors can contribute to the disease or speed up its progress. Misalignment of the hips causes the joints to rub more forcefully against the cartilage. Chronic inflammation can also develop, further damaging the joints.
A dog with mild hip dysplasia might be prone to developing arthritis in this area of the body.
Certain breeds are more susceptible to hip dysplasia than others. Large, active breeds, such as German shepherds, Rottweilers, golden retrievers, Saint Bernard's, Labrador retrievers and Newfoundland's should be watched closely as they age.
However, this condition doesn’t plague only large dogs. Small breeds, such as pugs, boxers and French bulldogs have uniquely shaped bodies that can contribute to the hip dysplasia and resulting hip arthritis.
If hip dysplasia is spotted early enough, you may be able to correct it with surgery. Some dogs live with mild forms of dysplasia that go undiagnosed. Pet owners with larger breeds of dogs may want to be extra vigilant about dog arthritis symptoms.
Dog Arthritis Symptoms
About 20 percent of dogs will suffer from arthritis during their lives. Although you might think that this condition only affects older dogs, it can come on earlier than you might expect.
Approximately 65 percent of dogs ages 7 and older have arthritis.
Many pet owners wonder, “How do I know if my dog is in pain?” Because arthritis can range from mild to severe, you may not always recognise the symptoms right away. Sometimes, dogs with arthritis seem to develop behavioural changes. You may not link these with dog arthritis symptoms if you don’t know what to look out for.
What are dog arthritis symptoms?
Some early signs of arthritis include: · Reduced activity · Diminished desire to go for walks or play ball · Slowing down during walks or jogs · Resistance to jumping to or from its favourite resting place · Odd posture when walking, like a dog with stiff back legs · Irritability
Many of these symptoms can be associated with other ailments. It’s not always easy to tell that arthritis is the problem. It’s important to track the symptoms even if you’re not sure that they’re severe. Let your vet know that these things are going on.
For example, a dog that has historically been happy to be groomed could start to snap during grooming sessions if it’s in pain. Sometimes, dogs that are experiencing arthritis aches can get aggressive while eating. They might act strangely if they’re woken up during sleep. Then, there are more obvious red flags, including the following: Limping Dogs can limp for a variety of reasons. Maybe your pet simply has a burr stuck in his paw pad. If you can’t detect the cause of the limp, it could be arthritis. Frequent limping that lasts for a significant period could be an indication of the disease. The arthritis that gives your dog stiff back legs may be worse in the mornings than in the evenings. As your pet starts to move around, it might feel more comfortable and experience relief. Therefore, a dog that runs more slowly or shows signs of pain in the morning compared with the evening could be suffering from arthritis. Muscle Loss in Legs Arthritis can cause muscle atrophy. This is often noticeable in the limbs. If you notice that your dog’s legs are getting thinner, you might want to get them checked out. Licking Dogs tend to their wounds by licking. If they’re experiencing pain, they might try to soothe themselves. Some dogs with arthritis develop hot spots around their joints because of this. It’s difficult for a dog to reach its hips, but it might lick its hind foot or other affected joints if it has arthritis. Swelling and Popping If the arthritis is acute, it can be noticeable. You might see swelling in some of the joints, although you won’t always notice this around the hips. Still, dogs with hip arthritis may experience it in other areas too. You may hear popping or clicking sounds as your pup moves around. Other symptoms of dog arthritis that you may not be familiar with include: · A stiff gait · Lameness · Obvious pain · Whining · Loss of appetite · Fever
What Causes Arthritis in Dogs?
It’s not always easy to pinpoint the causes of arthritis. Congenital defects, such as hip dysplasia, could be to blame. Purebred dogs are more likely to develop hip dysplasia than mutts because a genetic defect along the family line can be compounded through generations. Trauma and stress to the joint can make it deteriorate quickly. For this reason, dogs that are incredibly active may be at a higher risk of developing hip arthritis than sedentary canines. Jumping to or from tall surfaces can also cause undue impact on the joints. Some medications and diseases can contribute to arthritis. Dogs with diabetes are more likely to develop the disease. Overweight dogs have more stress on their joints and could develop stiffness and aches and pains earlier than dogs that are at a healthy weight. While steroids can diminish inflammation, using them for a long-term period can cause arthritis. Many times, the cause of arthritis is unknown. Your dog may be predisposed for unspecified genetic reasons. Cell abnormalities can be associated with the condition. An adverse reaction to medication or a vaccine can be to blame. There’s not usually much that you can do to prevent arthritis from affecting your dog. This can be disappointing for pet owners. It doesn’t seem fair that your best friend should suffer in old age after being your companion for so many years.
Dog health is important, though. Going to regular check-ups and paying attention to the way that your furry friend is acting is the best way to identify dog arthritis symptoms.
How to Diagnose Dog Hip Arthritis
If you suspect that your dog may have arthritis, work with your vet. You’re around your best buddy the majority of the time. Establishing a relationship with your vet gives them a chance to get to know your dog, making them better able to spot changes. A diagnosis begins with an exam. A vet will assess the animal’s medical and health history. They’ll also test the canine’s range of motion and observe its movements. Some tests can help veterinarians make sure that another disease isn’t causing dog arthritis symptoms. Your vet may perform one of the following: · Tick panels or vector-borne disease tests to verify whether your pet has been exposed to a tick-borne illness, such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme disease · Blood tests to evaluate your dog’s kidney, pancreas and liver function and screen for infections or anaemia · Urine tests to screen for kidney or urinary tract diseases · Hormone tests to make sure that the thyroid is functioning properly · X-rays of the hips, spine and other joints · Joint fluid analysis
Can Dog Arthritis Be Cured?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis in dogs. Osteoarthritis will continue to damage the joint as the dog gets older. However, you can manage osteoarthritis with lifestyle changes, medications and supplements.
Many veterinarians will recommend giving a dog with osteoarthritis non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) to keep swelling at bay. Don’t offer these types of drugs to your pet without consulting with a medical professional first because they can produce unwanted side effects.
There is one type of arthritis that can be cured. Septic arthritis occurs when the fluid surrounding a joint becomes infected. If you can treat the bacteria or fungus with systemic antibiotics, it will no longer affect the area. However, septic arthritis can cause damage that deteriorates over time. Many dogs that are treated for septic arthritis develop osteoarthritis.
How to Help Arthritis
Talk to your vet to set up a plan for managing your dog’s arthritis symptoms. You want to focus on relieving pain as much as possible. Certain treatments can reduce inflammation, improve joint lubrication and prevent the disease from worsening as quickly as it might otherwise.
You should customise the treatment plan for your dog’s needs. In addition, it may change over time. Because arthritis is a progressive disease, it may cause different symptoms a year from now. You should be prepared to consistently assess your pup’s condition so that you can offer the most effective treatment at any given time.
Some of the medications that vets may recommend for dogs with hip arthritis include: · NSAIDs · Steroids · Immunosuppressants · Immunomodulators · Antibiotics · Anti-fungals · Anti-virals · Opioid painkillers · Dietary supplements · CBD oil Joint Supplements for Dogs Although certain medications can treat the acute disease, they can produce side effects. As we mentioned above, long-term steroid use can contribute to arthritis. Even though NSAIDs are available over the counter, they can cause dangerous gastrointestinal issues.
Certain supplements can further ease pain without the side effects. Some joint supplements for dogs with hip arthritis have protective benefits for dog health.
Do joint supplements work, though?
While studies don’t always prove that these supplements are effective, they come with few to no side effects and might be worth a try.
Chondroprotective Agents Chondroprotective agents, or CPAs, can delay the destruction of a joint in animals with arthritis. These compounds occur naturally in the joint. Experts believe that consuming them can support the body’s natural composition. Glucosamine and chondroitin are two types of supplements for dog arthritis.
Most glucosamine supplements also contain methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM. The sulphur in MSM is a chemical that the body needs to produce glucosamine. Some CPAs are derived from shellfish. If your dog has a shellfish allergy, it could develop serious problems. It’s a good idea to check with your vet before administering anything, even supplements, to your pup. Omega-3 Fatty Acids There is some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can help maintain joint health. This healthy fat is a potent antioxidant. It can reduce inflammation as well as giving your dog bright eyes, healthy skin and a glossy coat. Omega-3 is also good for cardiovascular, brain and eye health, which might be important for your aging pup. Creatine Although creatine doesn’t have a direct effect on the joints, it is important for cellular health. It can help the cell walls rebuild themselves. Dogs that lose muscle tone because of arthritis can get caught in a cycle of inactivity. The muscle wasting can make it that much more difficult for them to stay mobile.
Creatine supports muscle health. It is most effective when it’s used along with regular gentle exercise. Natural Treatments for Hip Arthritis in Dogs Most people consider dietary supplements to be natural treatments for dog arthritis. Other vitamins, minerals and foods have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can minimize symptoms of the condition. Even though they’re natural, they might not be the best option for your pet in certain circumstances. Consult with your vet before administering any herbs, supplements or medications.
Some compounds that are included in joint supplements for dogs because they may be effective in relieving pain or diminishing symptoms are:
· Turmeric – A natural root that can also be dried and sprinkled on food and has anti-inflammatory properties · Vitamin E– A powerful antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage · Essential oils– Helichrysum and frankincense are healing and have anti-inflammatory properties. · Acupuncture – An alternative, holistic option for disease management and pain relief for calm, obedient dogs · Cold and heat therapy– Non-invasive treatment that can relieve pain and inflammation
Other Ways to Manage Canine Arthritis
When you see your best friend in pain, you want to make sure that you are doing everything that you can to help them. Physical therapy and laser treatments are two additional options for managing dog arthritis symptoms.
Rehabilitation therapy can give your pup a chance to work with certified professionals to improve mobility, reduce stiffness, maintain strength and promote the health of the soft tissues. Swimming, underwater treadmills, electric stimulation and ultrasound therapy may be used to treat the condition.
Laser therapy is a relatively new treatment that uses light to activate cell growth and boost circulation. Cold laser treatments have fewer side effects than hot laser therapy. A session may last between three and 20 minutes.
The treatment can be performed more than once a day and is a non-invasive, outpatient procedure. Because it’s so new, however, many veterinarian facilities don’t have the equipment to perform this type of treatment.
Can a dog die from arthritis?
A diagnosis of this disease isn’t a death sentence. However, allowing the condition to go untreated can cause debilitating pain, which may lead pet owners to have to make the tough decision for euthanasia.
Therefore, it’s important to stay abreast of your dog’s health. Arthritis isn’t necessarily preventable, but you can keep your dog at a healthy weight and promote longevity and mobility by making sure that it gets plenty of low-impact exercise.
If you have a large-breed puppy, focusing on a gradual feeding schedule can promote slower growth and possibly prevent joint problems. If your dog is older, focus on senior dog nutrition. Feeding our senior four legged companions properly can help them stay lean.
With the right care and a lot of love, you and your pup can sail through those doggy golden years with ease.